Three habits of empathetic leaders!

By November 19, 2014All

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We live in a fast-paced world where many people feel stretched and overwhelmed with just trying to balance their lives. Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to catch up with a longtime friend.

Jeff was overwhelmed with some new responsibilities he had been given with his recent promotion and family related issues that surfaced up.

My emotional antenna detected several emotions that Jeff needed to just vent and get out of his system when we talked about his challenges.  On one hand he yearned for a space to just share his frustration he had with his superiors and family members. The feelings were bottling up inside like a bottle of champagne that needed to be popped open.

The biggest influence you can have on someone is to really listen and learn as much as you can about the person and the situation they are facing.  As a leader and a coach, you need to “diagnose” the feelings and the “data” to make a helpful recommendation.

About a year ago, I took a Franklin Covey training seminar about empathy. They taught us the following scenario that illustrates how empathy and coaching works- “Your doctor enters the examining room and gives you a quick exam. You have questions, but feel rushed as you ask them. The doctor gives a quick diagnosis and writes you a prescription.

But what if your doctor enters the examining room and sits down, listening carefully as you describe your symptoms. She gives you a thorough examination, and then asks more questions to make sure she understands. Working with you, she arrives at a diagnosis and writes a prescription.”

Empathy is a critical component for anyone who is working with customers and people. John Maxwell said it best-“Leaders listen, learn and then lead.”

Humans are wired for empathy from the very early age of relating to people and building connections to survive in the world. A new baby needs a parent who can be empathic and understanding in order to anticipate the baby’s human needs for growth.

Coaching teams and training in customer service taught me a lot about empathy. I wanted to share some best practices for all leaders and coaches who are trying to serve, empower and encourage others.

A Beginner’s mindset

A leader is not the smartest person in the room, but someone who has a beginner’s mindset. A beginner’s mindset refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness to learn, and challenging one’s assumptions. A great leader is someone who is willing to be vulnerable, learn from other people and reflect on what’s being said. Many people make the mistake that a leader has to know it all and has the answers to whatever the problem may be.

Acknowledge feelings and feedback

One of the best ways to create rapport and relationships with people is to acknowledge their feelings and feedback. Every person wants to be heard, validated and appreciated for their point of view. You may not necessarily agree with the person’s perspective, but again you are interested in understanding. Stephen Covey, said “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Ask better Questions

The key to understanding and helping you become a better leader is to ask better questions. When you are asking better questions, you are helping people empower their thoughts to come up with their solution to the issue at hand. How does it happen? You have to work on your communication as a leader. Great leaders communicate effectively not by giving someone the answers but asking better questions to create clarity and possibilities for a better future.

 

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